Saturday, August 11, 2018

Finally Back to Frontenac Provincial Park

Frontenac Provincial Park is located 45 minutes north of Kingston and is an easy drive for us. We haven’t done a canoe trip there for a long time. In fact, our youngest daughter hadn’t been born the last time did one. We wanted to go on a fun camping trip with some family so we chose Frontenac. Unfortunately, they couldn’t make it so we went by ourselves.

Frontenac is a beautiful park and every time we go I think we should spend more time there. I must admit that I’m not a fan of the clusters of sites at Frontenac, but it wasn’t as bad as I was thinking it would be.

We left on a Friday. The goal was to paddle up Big Salmon Lake to the portage into Little Clear Lake, do the portage and make our way to the campsite cluster on Little Clear. Our site was 9a. It turned out to be a great site. The only downside was that the access to the water wasn’t super easy.

We arrived at the park just before lunch on Friday. We picked up our permits at the park office then headed to the Big Salmon Lake launch. We unloaded all of our stuff then had a quick lunch at the boat launch before heading out.

It was a beautiful sunny day with the wind that would push us along. I paddled with our two daughters in the yellow canoe and Sarah paddled with our son in the red canoe. The girls and I were a little ahead so we decided to paddle around a small island. As it turns out it wasn’t an island at all, but rather a long narrow point. If we’d had the map we would have been able to tell, but it was in the other canoe. Frontenac is probably the only park that we only have one map for. It made for a nice detour. By the time we came out of the bay (on the North side of the lake) the other canoe was way ahead. That didn’t stop us from crossing the lake to the south side so that we could paddle under the overhanging rocks. Very rarely do I paddle this lake without going under the rocks. It’s such a cool formation. It was a fair bit cooler under the rock and we saw a bird's nest along with some raspberries on the rock ledges.  
Overhanging Rocks

After visiting the overhanging rocks we made a solid push to catch up to the red canoe. We caught up a little bit before the portage into Little Clear Lake. Sarah and our son had a good chuckle when we told them we thought were going around an island. They had obviously looked at the map and knew we were headed to a dead end.

Almost Caught Up

We made it to the 970 m portage, had a quick drink and were on our way. I made sure everyone got off with a load then grabbed our barrel and the canoe. The kids stopped after a couple of hundred metres for a rest and to shuffle who was carrying what. I passed them and thought it would be a while before I saw them again. When I made it to the end of the portage I unloaded and headed back. Within a minute all three kids were coming around the corner. I was blown away by how fast they had covered the portage.

While the kids were waiting for us to return at the end of the portage they had some snacks. They must have finished them because nobody offered me any upon my arrival. Once the canoes were in the water we rafted up and paddled most of the way to our site together. One of the nice things about Frontenac is that it doesn’t take long to get far enough into the park to feel secluded. Our entire trip took about two and a half hours and it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere.

Rafted Up
Upon arriving at our site Sarah and I setup the tents while the kids had a swim. We discovered the cool food storage bins that have been installed at all of the sites in Frontenac. It was so handy to be able to throw the food into the box and not have to worry about it. It was great that the kids would be able to retrieve food as needed.  

A Tight Squeeze on the Tent Pad
Food Storage Bin
Hanging Out in the Hammock
It’s been a really dry summer and while we planned for the trip we figured that there might be a fire ban in place so we planned to do all of our cooking on the stove. As it turns out there was only a partial fire ban in place. We were allowed to have fires from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. We came prepared to cook all of our meals on our stove and that’s what we did. In cooking our dinner we realized that it has been a long time since we have actually used a gas stove in the backcountry. Our go-to stove is a stick stove.

Haven't Cooked Like This For a Long Time!
You Can't See Me
Our son wanted to fish after dinner so we paddled out to the island on the lake and fished. He caught a good sized smallmouth bass and eventually I caught a small one. I guess we should have fished before dinner.
First Catch of the Trip

It did start to rain in the night which is when I realized that the new fly for our tent needed to be seam sealed. It wasn’t a big deal, but through the window in the top of the tent I could see drops forming perfectly along the seams.

The second day of our trip was meant to be spent hanging around the site and exploring the lake if anyone was up to it. Our son wanted to fish more (he was keen to catch some lunch) so we headed out and fished. The girls played in the hammocks and around the site as Sarah had a relaxing morning of reading in one of the hammocks.

We had some lunch then went for a swim. As part of the swim I thought it would a good time if the kids figured out how to get in the canoe from the water and how to jump out of the canoe without tipping it (We haven’t practiced a canoe over canoe rescue yet but we probably should). The kids and I got into the canoe and paddled into the lake. Our older daughter wanted to jump out first. She jumped out without any thought about what might happen. She ended up in the water, as did the rest of us. The dunking was a good experience for all of us, especially our youngest daughter. We brought the canoe back to shore, emptied it out and talked a little about the physics of jumping out and getting back into the canoe. We spent much of the rest of the afternoon jumping out of the boat and getting back in. We had a blast.

The Kids Exploring the Water

We came back to shore and got changed. Most of us were happy to relax for a bit, either lying in the hammock or reading. Our son decided that he would fish from the shore. He tried for a bit without much luck. He was about ready to give up but decided to cast one more time. Then we all heard, “I got one!”. He saw the fish jump and by the time I got to the water he wasn’t sure he had a fish anymore. He said it felt like he was caught in the weeds. He kept reeling in and discovered he had a huge largemouth bass. I helped him land the fish, we took some photos and then I went off to clean it. While cleaning the fish I decided that I needed more practice. I guess we’d better catch more fish.

Biggest Catch of the Trip
When I returned to our site with the fillets we figured it would be best to cook the fish over an open fire rather than on the stove. We waited until 6:00 then made a small fire to cook the fish. It was delicious. Cooking it over the fire was certainly the right thing to do. As we ate the sky looked a little threatening. We were prepared to retreat to under a tarp we had setup but it wasn’t necessary. It turns out the clouds blew right past us.  

Fresh Fish Over the Fire
A Millipede Friend
A Beautiful Evening
Amazing Sunset
The next morning was sunny and calm. I went for a short paddle and brought back some water. We had some breakfast and began packing up. While we packed up the girls played and our son fished and helped pack up. While our son was by the water he noticed a large snake along the shore it turned out to be a beautiful gray ratsnake (formerly known as the black ratsnake). It’s been a long time since we’ve seen one of these beautiful creatures.

We left our site around 10:00. It was quite warm and the air was very still. It was going to be a very hot day. We leisurely paddled the lake and covered the portage quickly. When we were done the portage we had a great swim. The water was so clear and refreshing. We had lunch at the portage and kids tried fishing for a bit. It was a hot paddle back to the access point. Our son got hot enough that he decided to jump out of the canoe to cool off. He managed to get out and back in without upsetting the canoe.

Blasting Through the Portage
All Loaded Up

So Refreshing

Beautiful Day on Big Salmon

Couldn't Ask For Better Swimming Weather

After Lunch Fishing

More Fishing

Off Again

Man Overboard!

Checking Out the Rocks

Break Time
We made it back to the access point. The kids were so hot they wanted to swim. The water is a bit swampy at the dock but that didn’t stop the kids from swimming. After a bit of shenanigans that included a sandal stuck in the mud and a knee split open on the gravel parking lot, we were ready to go. Although the trip was short we had a great time. We will be back.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Victoria Day in Algonquin

The May long weekend was approaching and we didn't have any plans a week before. The weather was looking good so we decided we should go camping in Algonquin Park. We thought we'd check the online reservation system to see if there were any sites available. As you might expect all the sites were booked except for the non-reservable ones. We decided to take our chances and to see what was available when we got there. We did this once before but arrived really early on Friday. We weren't sure how quickly the sites would book up but thought we'd give it a try.

We left early enough that we made it to the park by 6:00 p.m. I guess that's early enough for non-reservable sites since we were able to get our first choice. We chose site 114 in the Pog Lake Campground. It was only a couple of sites away from the beach and it turned out to be fairly private on the one side (not so much on the others).

We headed for our site, set up the tents and had some pasta salad that we brought as a quick meal. It was a beautiful night to be outside. It seemed more like summer than spring. It was warm, the sun was shining and we were about to be treated to a beautiful sunset. After eating and cleaning up we headed to beach to take it all in.

Tents All Setup

Sunset at the Beach
After the sun had set, Sarah and the girls headed for the tent while our son and I grabbed the canoe and began exploring the lake. I hadn't looked at a map so we had no destination in mind. We paddled across the lake and found a river. We started paddling the river and before long it became clear that there was another lake close by. We made our way around a few more bends and eventually came upon the lake. We noticed Highway 60 across the lake and realized we were on Lake of Two Rivers. We often like to look at maps and plan where we're going, but it can be a lot of fun to just go with the flow (or against it as the case may be).

Admiring the Stillness

Smooth as Glass
It was cloudy when we awoke Saturday morning. After breakfast we thought we'd go for a stroll around the campground to see if there were any good sites we should consider for next time. By the time we were ready to go it started drizzling a bit. We grabbed our raincoats and headed out. The rain got heavier and heavier as we went. By the time we got back we were soaked. During our walk we may have discovered why there were no bugs. We found ice in one of the streams. Not just a thin coating but a good six inches. Given that black flies lay eggs in running water, it's no surprise there were none.
Icy Stream
We decided that a rainy afternoon would be a good time to head to the Visitor Centre. The kids love it there. They always learn something new. We ended up spending a couple of hours there and by the time we left the rain had subsided. We played Bocce Ball on our site until it was time to cook up some sausages. By the time we had finished cleaning up the rain had started again. We made our way into our tents and listened to the rain pound down.

In the morning, we were happy to see that the rain had passed. We hung up a bunch of things to dry (Note to self: our recently acquired second-hand tents need to be waterproofed.). We decided to take advantage of the nice weather  and do some hiking. So we headed for the Two Rivers Trail, which we haven't hiked before. It was a nice and easy 2.1km. There were some lookouts with some nice views. We all had a great time. The girls have recently started to enjoy hiking more. Not because the enjoy the scenery, the fresh air or the exercise but because they have decided to use the interpretive trail markers as snack points. At the beginning of a hike they look at the guide and decide which points should be the snack points. Those points then seem to become almost an obsession for them. I feel like we're doing something wrong here, but at least they're having fun.
Checking Out the French Trail Guide

Along the Trail
Checking Out the View

A Couple of Big Trees (and Kids)
We stopped at the Lake of Two Rivers picnic spot on the way back for some lunch. The sun was out and there was a nice breeze off the lake. It was a good place to stop for lunch.

When we got back to our site our daughters wanted to play at the beach and our son wanted to do some fishing. We grabbed the canoe and our fishing gear and off we went. We paddled around much of the lake. We didn't catch anything but we did spot a lone turtle sunning itself. It must have been quite cold because it didn't pay any attention to us despite the fact that we got quite close.

Enjoying the Sun
Meanwhile, the girls were playing at the beach. Our five year old couldn't resist going into the water for a swim. If I remember correctly there had likely been ice on the lake two weeks before. Needless to say she got quite chilled.

When we arrived back to the beach our older daughter wanted to go for a paddle. I took the two older kids while Sarah got our youngest daughter changed and warmed up. We explored a bay that we hadn't check out yet. We found an old dead tree in the water that the kids wanted to explore. 

Lounging Around 
Checking Out the Log

Log Selfie
We headed back to our site played more Bocce Ball and had some burgers. It was shaping up to be another beautiful night. Our son and I headed to the beach to toss a ball back and forth while we watched the sun set. A great end to a great day.

Another Beautiful Sunset.
Monday morning we had breakfast and packed up then we all headed out for a paddle. The older kids were keen to share the log they had found so we headed that way. Our younger daughter had noticed a beach that she wanted to check out so that was the next stop. While at the beach the girls discovered what looked like a cool den.
I Wonder What Lives in Here?
We paddled to the river that leads to Lake of Two Rivers and made our way to the lake. It was very windy and the wind was coming right across the lake. We didn't stay on the lake for long. We had a nice leisurely paddle back to the beach. We made our way back to our site, had some lunch and loaded up the canoe.

I'm really glad we decided to camp for the weekend. It was nice to be able to spend the time together outside. This trip marked four consecutive seasons of camping in Algonquin Park for us, three of which were bug free. I can't wait for the next adventure.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Winter in the Wild in Algonquin Park

We attended Winter in the Wild last year and loved it so much that we decided we needed to return. Last year we stayed at a motel just outside the East Gate. It was nice, but we really wanted to stay in the park for the full experience. It's a totally different trip when you stay in the park.

This year's Winter in the Wild, at Algonquin Park, would be our second outing in our hot tent. We were really looking forward to it. We were a little disappointed as we left Thursday morning that it was foggy, rainy and generally very wet. That said, by the time we reached the East Gate of the park the rain was behind us and the rest of the day proved to be quite nice. We stopped in at the Visitor Centre for some lunch and a peak out the viewing deck then headed for the campground. When we arrived at Mew Lake the campground was fairly empty. We set up the tent then spent some time getting the interior of the tent set up. I think we're getting a little faster at this process and the kids are getting to be very helpful.

Tent Setup on a Huge Site
Once we were setup we split some wood so that we could get the fire going. After the chores were done we walked around the campground and checked things out. The skating rink was closed due to the warm temperatures as they were hoping to preserve the ice for the weekend. We headed back to have some chicken pot pie then clean up. We got some glow sticks out for the kids. They had fun playing with them as we walked through the campground. There weren't any clouds in the sky so the star gazing was incredible.

I think we're getting a little better at managing the fire in the wood stove but we could use a some more practice. I woke up every few hours, mostly because my nose was cold. I would roll out of bed throw more wood on the fire then, invariably, would have to go to the bathroom. The hike to the comfort station under the stars was always worth getting out of bed for. I figure I got a lot of exercise this way.

In the morning we cooked some cinnamon buns and bacon. On our last trip our daughter commented about how this wasn't exactly a healthy breakfast, but that didn't stop her from eating it this time. It takes a long time to cook bacon on a wood stove and dealing with all the grease is a bit of a pain. Next time I think we'll cook the bacon ahead of time and freeze it so that it just has to be heated.

Flooding the Rink With the Algonquin Zamboni
The plan for the morning was to head to the Fen Lake Ski Trail located at the West Gate of the park. We loaded up all the skis and headed out. When we arrived at the West Gate we discovered that the trails were closed due to the icy conditions (remember all the rain from the day before). This was the first time we've stopped at the west gate. We almost always come in from the East Gate so this was the first time that we saw the famous sign.

West Gate
After a quick trip into the gatehouse to purchase some badges we loaded up the van and headed back to our site. We stopped along the way to have a look at the cool looking ice formations along the highway.

Frozen Waterfall Along Highway 60

Ice Formations Along Highway 60
When we got back to our site we grabbed the skates and walked to the rink. We generally don't skate much so I thought this would be a quick thirty minute outing. As it turns out the kids loved it. They liked that they could skate or that they could grab a hockey stick and skate around with a puck. We played together and we played with some of the other kids. Things were going great until the puck I fired a little too hard at the net hit our son in the knee. He was done skating for the time being but his injury proved to be short lived.  He and Sarah headed back to the tent to prepare lunch while the girls (and I) were happy to continue skating. We stayed until well past when we might normally have had lunch and even then it was hard to get the girls off the ice.

First Time With a Stick on the Ice 

Official Puck Dropper

Looking for a Pass...

...and Waiting for a Return Pass

I've Got This

After lunch we walked to the airfield following the Old Rail Bike Trail. It's too bad the trail was so icy. It would have made for a great ski. It's flat but I think the kids would have enjoyed it.

On the Beaten Path and Off the Beaten Path

Who Needs Snowshoes

I expected that upon our return the kids would be too tired to do anything physical. Was I ever wrong. As soon as we got back all they wanted to do was skate some more. We grabbed our skates and headed back to the rink. One of the boys that we played with in the morning was still out on the ice having a great time.  Everyone out on the ice seemed so happy. I couldn't believe how much better our kids were getting at skating and moving a puck around. When we first stepped on the ice our four year old didn't want to skate without holding somebody's hand. Now, she was happily skating on her own and doing her own thing. We stayed into the early evening.

The campground had slowly been filling up over the course of the day. I was amazed to see just how many sites were already taken. Based on today's arrivals I was guessing that there wouldn't be many empty sites Saturday night.

Saturday was Algonquin's Winter in the Wild Festival. We were hoping to do a hike in the morning and then catch a presentation. We slept in a bit and took our time cooking up some pancakes. By the time we were finished and had cleaned up we didn't really have time for a hike. Instead we loaded up the car and headed to the Visitor Centre to see Marian & Hailey Sonntag do a presentation on Essentials to Beginning Winter Camping. They did a great job with their presentation. They are both so passionate about being outside and really want others to experience the joy of getting out in the winter. It was great of them to share their knowledge with us.

Getting the Rink Ready

Presentation by Marian & Hailey Sonntag

Following the presentation we headed back to our site for lunch and more skating. We were at the rink for the entire afternoon. The rink was quite busy due to Winter in the Wild but the skaters and hockey players managed to share the ice beautifully. It was so nice to be outside all day getting some fresh air along with a ton of exercise.

We grabbed some burgers and hot dogs at the the barbeque put on by the Friends of Algonquin Park then headed for the camp fire where we took in a presentation on wolves which included a hike out to the Old Airfield for a wolf howl. It was very cool to hear the naturalists call. We did hear something way off in the distance. I thought it was an owl but the naturalist said it may have been a wolf way off in the distance.

Sunday morning we hiked the 2.3 km Peck Lake Trail. It was a perfect day for a hike. The sun was shining and it was quite warm. The kids did a great job. The promise of snacks at certain trail markers was a good incentive for them to keep going.

Icy Section of the Trail

Post 4: The Snacking Post


Big Tree 
Photo Opportunity


Wood Pecker Hole

It was such a beautiful day that we had lunch outside. We had some soup and cooked some cornbread over the fire. Any guesses on where the kids wanted to go after lunch? If you said the rink, you were right. Our son and I spent the afternoon skating up and down the rink passing and shooting the puck. We tried to get our daughters in on the action but they were happy just skating with the puck or digging pucks out of the net. I feel like we all got so much better at skating and moving the puck around.

Moving the Puck

Break Time

Going to the Net

Having a Blast

Coming in for a Shot

Is Ice Chair Pushing an Olympic Event? If So These Girls Are Ready!

The Rink to Ourselves
At about 4:00 I tried to get the kids off the ice so that we could try out the skiing on the Old Railway Bike Trail. They were having no part of it. They were happy on the ice and weren't getting off. Sarah stayed with the kids while I got my skis and headed around the Old Airfield. The sun had softened the snow enough to make the skiing quite enjoyable. I went for a short ski then made my way back to the rink. When I arrived at the rink we pried the kids off the ice so that we could eat. What a great day!

Great Afternoon for Some Skiing

The Old Airfield 
Monday was another beautiful morning. The sun was shining and the temperature was climbing. We packed up a few things as we were getting breakfast ready, then ate. After eating we began packing things away. The kids were very helpful. Once we were all packed up we thanked the wardens for all their hard work over the weekend and told them that we would be back for more winter fun.

We had hoped to do a hike on the way out but as we were leaving the campground the rain started to come down so we headed for the Visitor Centre where we had lunch.

This trip was a great experience for us. We had the chance to see so many winter camping setups. It was incredible how full the campground was. I think I only counted eight empty sites (in the electrical portion of the campground) on Saturday night.  I was also blown away the amazing community of super friendly people. Everyone said "hi" as they walked past. People were happy to tell you about their setups and share tips and tricks and in the evening there was always a happy crowd gathered around a fire sharing stories of both winter and summer camping adventures. It was truly amazing community to experience.